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Zimbabwe Opposition Says Rural Violence Creating Humanitarian Emergency

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change said Monday that violence against its supporters in rural areas by ruling ZANU-PF party youth militia and others has driven many people to seek refuge in its offices across the country, creating a population of internally displaced people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Secretary General Tendai Biti of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporters in South Africa on Sunday that 10 people have been killed and hundreds more have been beaten by ZANU-PF youth militia, war veterans and uniformed forces.

More than 200 people displaced from Envant Farm in Manicaland are now camped on the grounds of the MDC’s office in the provincial capital of Mutare, according to MDC and diplomatic sources who said sanitary facilities on the site are inadequate.

Sources said many homes were burned over the weekend in Uzumba and Maramba-Pfungwe in Mashonaland East Province, a focal point for violence which surged in the wake of March 29 election gave the combined opposition a parliamentary majority.

Sources in Gutu, Masvingo Province, said an 86-year-old man was badly beaten by ZANU-PF militia members while a pregnant woman was stabbed in the stomach.

Opposition members have also fled on foot from marauding militia members in Shamva and Bindura in Mashonaland Central seeking safety as far away as Harare.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party is finding it hard to feed all the displaced persons and seeks international assistance.

A South African-based humanitarian group said the MDC is understating the level of the crisis which has mounted since the March 29 elections. The Solidarity Peace Trust in Kwazulu-Natal said information that it has received from its member organizations suggests well over 3,000 people need humanitarian assistance as a rising number of rural dwellers are driven from their homes by politically motivated violence.

Deputy Director Selvan Chety of the Solidarity Peace Trust said there has been a sharp increase in the number of internal and external refugees in recent weeks.

Pastor Elfas Shangwa of the New Hope Foundation, a member of Christian Alliance, told reporter Carole Gombakomba that the humanitarian crisis is escalating, as soldiers continue to burn homes, and beat people who gather in public.

Meanwhile, six members of Tsvangirai MDC formation and freelance journalist Frank Chikowore appeared in court Monday to face charges of public violence in connection with a general strike the opposition attempted to mount last Tuesday.

Harare correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

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